TechSpot means tech analysis and advice you can trust. Read our ethics statement.
In brief: Samsung has given us another reason not to buy stolen goods: the Korean giant has revealed a feature that allows it to disable its televisions remotely. The technology was recently used after a number of TVs were stolen from a warehouse in South Africa.
Samsung explains that the Television Block Function is already pre-loaded on all Samsung TV products, though it only works if Samsung knows the serial code of a stolen unit. Once the set connects to the internet, its number is checked against a database on the company's servers. A match results in all of the TV's functions being disabled.
Samsung utilized Television Block last month after unrest and looting in South Africa saw several of its sets stolen from the company's Cato Ridge distribution center. As they were taken from Samsung directly, the company knew exactly which serial numbers to look out for.
"In keeping with our values to leverage the power of technology to resolve societal challenges, we will continuously develop and expand strategic products in our consumer electronics division with defence-grade security, purpose-built, with innovative and intuitive business tools designed for a new world. This technology can have a positive impact at this time, and will also be of use to both the industry and customers in the future," said Mike Van Lier, Director of Consumer Electronics at Samsung South Africa.
We still don't know if Samsung TV owners can or will be able to report their stolen set's serial numbers to Samsung so the company can activate the block, or if the service is reserved for large-scale thefts from stores and warehouses.
While the technology will doubtlessly be helpful in deterring thieves, Samsung TV owners might be concerned by the company's ability to brick their sets remotely, especially if the feature could potentially be hacked.
Samsung added that anyone in South Africa whose television was blocked by accident must send their proof of purchase to email@example.com.